Even the bravest of us rarely has the courage for what he knows…Nietzsche
In his small, strange little book, Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche discussed the “problem of Socrates,” starting from the premise that “the great sages are declining types.” He suggested that Socrates and Plato were “symptoms of decay” and “agents of the dissolution of Greece.” In fact, he claimed they were “pseudo-Greek [and] anti-Greek.” Of course, Nietzsche saw a parallel with modernity. He saw that modern thinkers have also proven to be declining types. In fact, our thinkers, our intellectuals, have busied themselves with destroying civilization through the “organization of political hatreds.”
Julien Benda offered this thesis after the First World War, though he was referring to the intellectual organization of national hatreds. But today, the situation has devolved. We no longer entertain national hatreds in Benda’s sense. Instead, our intellectuals are busily organizing self-hatred; that is, the hatred of masculinity, whiteness, European culture, and even femininity. Consequently, what we have are a series of movements against everything that we are – movements of self-eradication and a politics of national, ethnic and cultural suicide. Our leaders are now agents of the dissolution of America and Europe.
Do our leaders even know they are destroying themselves, destroying their respective countries? Europe is a continent full of nations that are committing suicide. America is committing suicide. But why? Who set us to this self-unraveling task? All these brilliant people – on the right and the left – are eager to fulfill the plan. They have been persuaded. Ask yourselves whether any of these people can see what is happening?
No. All these “brilliant people” – on the right and the left – do not see. They do not think. There is no discernment in our leaders. Once again, look to the left and the right. What you hear are the shibboleths of two parties. Nothing more. Consequently, everything is dissolving. Everything is gradually falling apart. And very soon the process of disintegration will accelerate.
This morning I heard retired General Paul Vallely say that the Democrats ruined our relationship with Vladimir Putin, as if Putin had not been working against us from the start. America’s arch-conservative, Patrick Buchanan, has said that Putin’s Russia – a country where journalists and dissidents are routinely murdered – is morally superior to the United States. Last year Joe Biden praised China’s mass murdering leaders as “good folks,” dismissing the idea that China is a threat. Consider as well, General Mark Milley’s praise for Critical Race Theory, or his readiness to give vital military intelligence to the People’s Liberation Army in advance of hostilities. From right to left, as anyone can see, our leaders are blind.
Some of our leaders say that unvaccinated people are a threat to the vaccinated. Some say the Earth is warming when, in fact, the planet is on the brink of cooling. Others say that free trade with China is good for America. So many ideas, on the right and the left. But these pet ideas are mostly worthless. Of course, our leaders give lip service to “freedom.” But do they really mean it? They give lip service to the common good. But do they understand in what the common good consists?
There exists, behind all this nonsense a legion of intellectuals on the right and left – decadent and undiscerning. These rule over our culture, which is the opposite of noble. These are “symptoms of decay,” agents of dissolution, pseudo-American, anti-American in the same sense Nietzsche said Socrates and Plato were anti-Greek.
Why are we afflicted by these “declining types”? The cause may be attributed to psychopathological factors: self-hatred, inferiority, weak character, perversity. It manifests, primarily, as a choice for comfort, for amenities, for instant gratification. Inevitably, this desire for comfort comes in direct conflict with the harsh realities of the real world. What, then, do the comfortable do? They embrace comforting lies.
What would be an example of a comforting lie?
In 1980 Ronald Reagan said it was “morning in America.” But even in those days there was reason to “mourn for America.” Around 80 percent of high school seniors and college students were cheating on exams. Abortion, drug addiction, and depression were rampant. Communists were quietly taking over our schools. Let us not mistake a setting sun for a rising sun. Here is the problem of the right, of the conservative, of the reactionary who can no longer react. These people have become self-nullifying because comfort has become their primary value. They would rather die than fight; for death may seem more comfortable when you die with more toys.
The Roman Republic vs. the American Republic
There is a curious parallel between the Roman Republic and the American Republic. Both had to depend on the conservatives for survival. American conservatives elected the “great communicator,” Ronald Reagan. The Roman conservatives elected the “great orator,” Marcus Tullius Cicero. After Reagan was shot in the chest by John Hinkley, he said to the surgeons, “I hope you’re all Republicans.” When Marcus Porcius Cato the Younger heard Cicero’s first consular speech, he said, “We have an amusing consul.” Both Reagan and Cicero escaped assassination attempts while in office. Both appeared to defeat the revolutionary party. But in both instances, the revolutionary party was not defeated and returned with redoubled strength.
Reagan supposedly defeated the party of revolution by a policy of confrontation. Yet his policy was not as confrontational as everyone supposed. The same could be said about Cicero, who owed his initial victory against revolution to a speech delivered by the ever-abrasive Cato. To briefly explain, the Roman authorities had detected a plot to burn the city of Rome to the ground while a revolutionary army was being raised in the countryside by Lucius Sergius Catiline. Through the good offices of an informant, Cicero found incendiary devices in the homes of Catiline’s co-conspirators (who were subsequently arrested and interrogated). The Young Gaius Julius Caesar argued for the civil rights of the incendiaries. They were guilty, yes, he said, but they were Roman citizens who could not by law be put to death. When the Senate vacillated on the question of undercutting the revolution by executing the traitors, Marcus Cato did something no American politician would have dared. He spoke the truth, saying that the Senate was degraded by comfort and greed: “I will address myself for a moment to those of you who have always been more concerned for your houses, villas, statues, and pictures, than you have for your country. In heaven’s name, men, if you want to keep those cherished possessions … wake up while there is still time and lend a hand to defend the Republic. It is not a matter of misappropriated taxes, or wrongs done to subject peoples; it is our liberty and lives that are at stake.”
Cato reminded the Senate how often he had reproached them for “self-indulgence and greed – and by doing so have made many enemies….” Cato admitted that Rome was so rich and powerful its security had not been impaired by the moral indifference of its leaders. But now the situation had changed. Cato said, “Now … it is not … whether our morals are good or bad, nor is it the size and grandeur of the Roman empire that we have to consider. The issue is whether that empire, whatever we may think of it, is going to remain ours, or whether we and it together are to fall into the hands of enemies. In such a crisis does anyone talk to me of clemency and compassion?”
With regard to Caesar’s speech, Cato said: “It was an eloquent and polished lecture that Gaius Caesar delivered to you a few minutes ago on the subject of life and death. Evidently he disbelieves the account men give of the next world – how the wicked go a different way from the good, and inhabit a place of horror, fear, and noisome desolation.” In other words, Caesar was trying to save the traitors; therefore, choosing evil, he evidently did not believe in Hell. After blasting Caesar’s logic with further barbs, Cato turned again to the wickedness of the other senators, Cato continued: “We pile up riches for ourselves while the state is bankrupt,” he said. “We sing the praises of prosperity – and idle away our lives. Good men or bad – it is all one: all the prizes that merit ought to win are carried off by ambitious intriguers. And no wonder, when each one of you schemes only for himself, when in your private lives you are slaves to pleasure, and here in the Senate House the tools of money or influence. The result is that when an assault is made upon the Republic, there is no one there to defend it.”
Cato then stated the strategic situation, as bleak as it then was: “To conclude, gentlemen: if we could afford to risk the consequences of making a mistake, I should be quite willing to let experience convince you of your folly, since you scorn advice. But we are completely encircled. Catiline and his army are ready to grip us by the throat, and there are other foes within the walls, in the very heart of the city. We can make no plans or preparations without its being known – an additional reason for acting quickly. This therefore is my recommendation. Whereas by the criminal designs of wicked citizens the Republic has been subjected to serious danger … confirmed by the prisoners’ own confession, they stand convicted of having planned massacre, arson, and other foul atrocities against their fellow citizens and their country; that, having admitted their criminal intention, they should be put to death as if they had been caught in the actual commission of capital offences, in accordance with ancient custom.”
Sallust’s history tells us that all the senators of consular rank approved of Cato’s speech and “praised his courage to the skies, reproaching one another for their faintheartedness. Cato was now regarded as a great and illustrious citizen….” Cicero ordered and oversaw the execution of the prisoners. The resulting psychological shock undid the revolution. Catiline’s army was defeated and the Republic was saved. Sallust’s account is unusual for the fact that he was of Caesar’s party, and this account is not particularly flattering to Caesar.
What we have here, in this little history, is a kind of political miracle. Cato was the pagan equivalent of a hellfire and brimstone preacher. He did not win the argument by flattering his listeners or pandering to their desire for comfort. He did exactly the opposite. And look at the response he got! Yet it was, indeed, an uphill battle; for the Senate would relapse into moral weakness within a few short years. Once more the question would be asked: Who will defend the Republic?
In terms of discernment, it was only Cato and Lucius Cornelius Sulla the Dictator, who recognized how dangerous Caesar would become. Many believed then, and many now believe, that Caesar was a good person – a hero of the people. In reality, of course, he was the destroyer of the Republic. Fourteen years after Cato’s speech, Caesar would famously cross the Rubicon to make war on the Senate (49 B.C.). The revolution began again, but this time the Republic would not survive. Cicero described Caesar’s monstrous ambition in the following terms: “After [Sulla] came a man whose cause was not right but evil; and his success was even more horrible than Sulla’s. Mere confiscations of the property of individual citizens were far from enough to satisfy him. Whole provinces and countries succumbed to his onslaught, in one comprehensive universal catastrophe. Entire foreign nations were given over to ruin and destruction.”
According to Cicero, Rome’s sufferings were “all too well deserved. For had we not allowed outrages to go unpunished on all sides, it would have never been possible for a single human being to seize tyrannical power.” Cicero ended his sad reference to the Roman Civil War with the following lines: “Here in the city nothing is left – only the lifeless walls of houses. And even they look afraid that some further terrifying attack may be imminent. The Real Rome has gone forever.”
Such was Cicero’s eloquence at the end of the Republic, which might be used to describe the end of our Republic. Only we are not beset by a Caesar, but by a subversive party of little Caesars and little Catilines. We even have our incendiaries who would burn down whole cities in the name of defunding the police. But we are not to harm a hair on their heads. Those who would pull down the statues of our Founding Fathers are not to be hunted. Instead, those who broke into the Capitol last January 6 have been made an example of; for they do not belong to the self-hating party that presently rules the country.
Where, might you ask, is our Sulla or Cato? The closest thing we ever had was Senator Joseph McCarthy. He was censured by his colleagues on 2 December 1954. They said his behavior was “contrary to senatorial traditions.” One might ask, what traditions remain now? Indolence? Supine apathy? Servility? Considering what has happened during the last year, it seems that the United States Senate has decided to accommodate those who would destroy the Republic. Who, then, looks to the Senate for salvation? Nobody I can think of. “A plot has been hatched by citizens of the highest rank,” said Cato to the Roman Senate. And the Roman Senate listened. When Joseph McCarthy said the exact same thing, the U.S. Senate turned on him.
In his book, Death of a Republic, legal scholar John Dickinson wrote: “if dissent affects the basic layers of common belief on which the solidarity of the social body lastly rests, then the state becomes a house divided, society dis-sociates…. And such precisely was the turn events were taking in the lifetime of Cicero’s generation. What he beheld was not merely a struggle, if an uncommonly violent one … but the total destruction of [the Roman] community.”
Cannot we not see, in this distant mirror, the image of ourselves? Dickinson added, “when all this has crumbled, when the state lies in ruins, when laws, norms, ideas have gone down with it, when parties find no common ground on which to meet – then a man may feel that he witnesses ‘the decay and dissolution of the whole universe – si omnis hic mundus intereat et concidat.’”
The question follows: Why are we so blind? Why has our Republic taken the Roman Republic’s path to destruction? Our philosophers and thinkers have failed us, as Nietzsche suggested; for even he failed us. But he was correct about education when he said that education consists of three things: “One has to learn to see, one has to learn to think, one has to learn to speak and write – the end in all three is a noble culture.”
This is what we do not have. Our leaders are blind. They cannot think through the basic problems of the day. We see this demonstrated, again and again. No country, however strong and prosperous, can survive a succession of foolish leaders. Yet this is what our so-called “democracy” has given us. At the same time, we have abandoned our moral principles. Therefore, the abyss is not far off and we are headed straight for it. People sense this. They can feel it. But which of our “leaders” would dare to talk about it? Which of our leaders would stand up and take his colleagues to task?
Perhaps a leader will emerge. Perhaps the governor of Florida will prove worthy. Perhaps there is a senator who will risk everything to say the truth. We can only hope. Yet everything is against such a leader: the media, the universities, the government apparatus itself.
Notes and Links
- Nietzsche (as translated by R.J. Hollingdale), Twilight of the Idols, (London, Penguin Books, 1990), pp. 39-74.
- Matt Stieb, “Did General Mark Milley Actually Go Rogue at the End of the Trump Administration?” – “According to Woodward and Costa, who are both with the Washington Post, Milley circumvented Trump’s authority by calling General Li Zuocheng of China’s People’s Liberation Army in October 2020 and in January, informing himi that there would not be a U.S. attack on the nation with the world’s largest standing army. And if there were a strike, Milley reportedly told Li that he would give him a call ‘ahead of time.’” Milley’s alleged attempt to ingratiate himself with the People’s Liberation Army could not have won China’s respect or trust. This strange posturing on the part of Milley and others, pretending that Trump was an irrational lunatic, partakes of all that self-grandiosity of the world-saving genius. In fact, it is proof that Milley is more delusional than Trump – and a more egregious egomaniac.
- Sallust (as translated by S.A. Handford), Jurgurthine War, Conspiracy of Catiline (London, Penguin Books, 1982), p, 221.
- Ibid, pp. 221-222.
- Ibid, p. 224-225.
- Cicero (as translated by Michael Grant), On the Good Life [in the section On Duties] (London, Penguin Classics, 1979), pp. 134-135.
- John Dickinson, Death of a Republic: Politics and Political Thought at Rome 59-44 B.C. ( ), p. 384. The Latin line at the end of the quote is from Cicero’s De Legibus I, xliv, and translates as follows: “if all this world perish and fall.”
- Twilight of the Idols, p. 75.
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